AMD 2018: Meet the Researchers

July 20, 2018

The June Hancock Fund hosted an exceptionally well-attended Action Mesothelioma Day at the Crowne Plaza, Leeds on Friday 6th July. The sun was shining, and we were delighted to welcome friends old and new to what has now become an annual tradition of ‘Meeting the researchers.’

People with mesothelioma, their families, carers and friends met mesothelioma researchers for relaxed and informal round-table discussions of current research developments and had the rare opportunity to question the academics and clinicians at first hand. The Fund feels privileged to have this generous input from our researchers; the overwhelming response from all was that the format continues to be informative and successful.

Speakers included Dr Zsuzsanna Tabi, Reader at Cardiff University and long-time supporter and Fund grant-holder, who spoke about the recently completed clinical trials funded in collaboration with Cancer Research Wales. A cancer vaccine (Trovax) was employed to generate or strengthen the body’s immune response to fight the tumour; Immunology is an exciting area of mesothelioma research.

Dr Kate Millward, Research Associate at Cardiff University, talked about the focus between cancers and the immune system and how although the immune system is designed to fight tumours, unfortunately sometimes they fight back by impairing the immune system. Kate’s work focuses on testing treatments which can improve the immune response in mesothelioma patients.

Dr Miranda Ashton, clinical research fellow at the University of Glasgow, is finding out if relatively larger doses of radiotherapy could be more effective than standard doses in controlling pain, and reviewing the side effects of both. This is a first – no research has been carried out on this before in mesothelioma. SYSTEMS-2 is funded by the JHMRF in collaboration with the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.

The psychological effects of illness was the topic of Prof Allan House, Professor of Liaison Psychology at the University of Leeds. Prof House’s main clinical and research interests are in the overlap between physical and mental health, an area of research of much interest to those present.

The appropriate communication of a mesothelioma diagnosis to patients is being researched by Dr Beth Taylor from the University of Sheffield; “The importance of this cannot be underestimated,’ she said. Her ‘top ten tips’ were particularly well received and generated much discussion amongst patients and their families.

Dr Sarah Haywood Small, from Sheffield Hallam University, and her PhD student Oana Voloaca spoke about the new mesothelioma research group led by Dr Small and its funding , by the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund’s doctoral fellowship scheme. Both discussed the urgent need to develop new bioanalytical methods of mesothelioma diagnosis and detection because of how difficult it is to visualise and quantify the asbestos fibres in tissues.

Professor Adrian Dobbs, Professor of Organic and Medical Chemistry at the University of Greenwich, is using chemical tools to identify new therapeutic treatments for mesothelioma patients. Adrian is a regular attendee at the AMD Leeds event, and has supervised two of our PhD students. He spoke about the challenge of developing effective drugs that don’t cause unwanted side effects and are targeted on specific sites of the body.

There were plenty of questions for researchers and trustees. The feeling in the room was one of hope and potential for improved treatments and outcomes in the future.

There was an impromptu raffle at the end of the day which was really enjoyable, and a very tasty lunch. Fund chair Kimberley Stubbs said: “I was so thrilled to hear the positive feedback from patients and families as they left, especially to know that they left feeling better informed, listened to, and with hope for the future.”

Photos from the day can be found here:

Next year’s AMD event is on Friday 5th July 2019.